By Chimezie Godfrey
A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to reverse education budget cuts.
This was made known in a statement signed by the CSOs on Friday and made available to Newsdiaryonline.
“We urge the Commander in Chief Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, to reassess the unprecedented budget cuts to social services, which slashed 54% from Universal Basic Education, 20% from Ministry of Education and 42.5% from the Basic Healthcare Fund (BHCF).
“The decision to withhold critical social spending, while reportedly approving a N9 billion renovation project to the National Assembly complex, will disproportionately affect Nigeria’s most marginalised children – in particular, girls living in the poorest households, in rural areas especially the northern region.
“Schools across the country closed on 19th March, 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, forcing 36 million enrolled students out of school.
“They join an estimated 13.2 million primary school-aged children who were out of school before the pandemic hit.
“For many girls, this temporary hiatus to their education risks becoming permanent.
“Malala Fund estimates up to 10 million girls globally will not return to their classrooms once the pandemic passes — lost to child marriage, pregnancy, gender-based violence and child labour,” the group stated.
Crystal Ikanih-Musa, Malala Fund Country Representative in Nigeria, urged the government to plan on how to safeguard Nigerian youths.
“The government must plan now to safeguard Nigeria’s youth and protect progress made toward Agenda 2030 and SDG,” she stated.
The group noted that Nigeria’s education system suffered chronic underfunding at all levels before the pandemic.
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu during a meeting with development partners in the education sector in December 2019, “persistent budget shortfalls affect schools and the desired education outcomes”.
The Civil society also expressed concern that the most recent budget allocation failed to reflect the ambition of the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP).
Mallam Kabir Aliyu, National Moderator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), noted that while several factors account for Nigeria’s dismal performance in education over the years, inadequate expenditure is paramount.
“It is crucial that the government do not make cuts during this time of crisis while keeping in mind the goal of 4-6% GDP and 20% of national budget when things stabilize.
“By reinstating funding to education, the government could effectively support education during this crisis by:
“Expanding equitable learning for all students during lockdown through accessible means, such as TV, radio and other off-line learning materials for all levels of education.
“UBEC 2019 personnel audit data Programme to children at home, to relieve the economic burden of the poorest families and protect girls against negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage and child labour,” he stated.
He added that developing and implementing gender-responsive strategies to ensure girls and other vulnerable children, have the opportunity to return to school, including targeted cash transfer programmes for poor families.
The Initiator, Follow the Money Movement, and Founder, Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal appealed to Buhari to reconsider the spending cuts and ensure that education gets a fair share of the national budget.
He stressed that an investment in education now is an investment in the future peace and prosperity of the country.
Those who signed the statement include Crystal Ikanih-Musa, Mallam Kabir Aliyu Country Representative – Nigeria National Moderator, Malala Fund Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Abubakar Askira Rotimi Olawale, Program Manager/Executive Director Hallmark Leadership Initiative, Maiduguri, and Youth Hub Africa, Abuja.
Others are Habiba Mohammed Kiki James,Team Leader, Centre for Girls Education, Zaria ACE Charity, Abuja, Olabukunola Williams Pamela Okoroigwe, Executive Director, Senior Legal/ Programme Officer Education as a Vaccine (EVA) LegalDefence and Assistance Project Abuja (LEDAP), among others.